Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Should There Be A Maximum Wage Law?

Has anyone read “The Grapes of Wrath” or seen the movie? The reason I’m asking has to do with a story that ran this week in The New York Times by Michael Powell about hourly employees at La Guardia Airport making $6.15 an hour without any paid vacation or health benefits. Recent stories like this remind me of Steinbeck’s story about the “Joad” family during the Great Depression; trying to survive, willing to work, and hopelessly at the mercy of anyone who would employ them.

The article in the New York Times spoke of a man named Norman Echeverri who immigrated to New York from Medellin, Columbia twenty years ago. Mr. Echeverri had been earning $7.25 an hour pushing wheel chairs at Terminal B in La Guardia. That was until his employer, Prime-Flight, cut his wages to $6.15 an hour. He was told his pay was lowered because he might earn tips and that there were a thousand people who would be willing to take his job. According to the story, there are 15,000 others like him who work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s three major airports. These laborers used to work for the airlines and were part of unions and they had paid vacations plus benefits. Evidently, the airlines could cut expenses by outsourcing those positions. I guess it didn’t matter to them that they would wind up hurting all of these people while trying to save a buck. Are we really ok with that? If not, what can we do to make a difference? I’m in favor of improving labor laws and increasing the minimum wage. Left to their own devices, many employers will pay ridiculously low wages leaving their employees to rely on food banks and government assistance to survive. Are you willing to pay a little more for goods and services if it helps one of these workers make a living wage? Are you willing to speak with your vote and elect legislators who believe in fair labor laws?

Let me know what you think,


PS – Here’s a link to the story: